Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Languages and Lives in Deaf Communities

Erin Moriarty

Assistenzprofessorin an der Gallaudet University (USA)

Erin Moriarty ist Assistenzprofessorin für amerikanische Gebärdensprache und Gehörlosenstudien an der Gallaudet University (USA). Sie ist Expertin für die Mobilität gehörloser Tourist*innen und Translanguaging in Indonesien sowie für den Zugang zu Dienstleistungen für gehörlose Menschen im Allgemeinen.


The Global Deaf Circuit: An Entanglement of Deaf Spaces, Networks, and (un)Belonging

This presentation interrogates the notion of a “Deaf community” by examining the affordances and affective qualities of what I call the global deaf circuit, the deaf tourist’s purposeful search for deaf people and deaf spaces at the global level. The yearning to meet other deaf people and experience deaf sameness and differences firsthand is a strong motivation for many deaf tourists of various ages and backgrounds. Many of these tourists travel to join deaf tour groups, participate in different events, and visit “deaf” places, such as deaf schools. Examples of the global deaf circuit include the school for the deaf in Denpasar, Indonesia; deaf conferences (e.g. World Federation of the Deaf World Congresses and Deaflympics), Clin d’ Oeil, an annual performing arts festival in Reims, France; and rural communities known as “deaf villages,” which are communities with a genetic predominance of deafness and a shared sign language used by both deaf and hearing people, such as Bengkala in Bali, Indonesia. These events and sites have become important destinations for deaf tourists who seek out a sense of belonging. Many deaf tourists search for “deaf utopias” (Kusters 2010), an affective experience of belonging in a place or at an event that is imagined as a deaf “takeover” of public spaces (Haualand et al. 2015), creating a robust signing ecology with sign language everywhere and no barriers for deaf people. These different sites have different affordances and constraints for different types of networking/belonging, depending on the individual tourist’s positionality and privileges. This presentation will draw on data collected during ethnographic fieldwork as a part of the ERC-funded MobileDeaf subproject on deaf tourism.




Kusters, A. Deaf Utopias? Reviewing the Sociocultural Literature on the World's “Martha's Vineyard Situations”, The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, Volume 15, Issue 1, Winter 2010, Pages 3–16,